We got us a double-header! We try to stay up on what’s going on with the Big Two, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles released by Marvel and DC Comics. Today, we’re discussing Amazing Spider-Man 8, Batman and Robin Eternal 20, Power Man and Iron Fist 1, Silver Surfer 2, and Spider-Woman 4.
Amazing Spider-Man 8
Spencer: Dan Slott and Matteo Buffagni’s Amazing Spider-Man 8 seems like it has something important to say about redemption, but I’m not sure it ever fully articulates its point. The story finds Spider-Man foiling Mr. Negative’s plot, freeing Cloak and Dagger from his thrall, and winning Lian back to his side after her traitorous alliance with Zodiac. These are all examples of successful redemptions, but I’m less sure about where Quinghao Shen stands — has his humanitarian efforts redeemed his past crimes, or should they still be held against him? Both options are voiced as Shen’s loaded into an ambulance, but Slott never makes it clear where the issue stands on Shen’s actions, or how they relate to the similar actions taken by many of the other characters throughout this storyline.
This is a more personal problem, but there’s one tiny aspect of this issue that bothered me enough to take me out of the story.
I read this issue three times this week, and every single time I read it the fact that Lian is Peter’s girlfriend took me by surprise — startled me, actually. I can vaguely remember it being mentioned in previous issues now, but so briefly that it made absolutely no impression on me. I have no problem with Lian and Peter dating, but if this little attention is going to be paid to it, I’d rather Slott not include the plot point at all. Thus far Peter and Lian’s relationship has been almost nonexistent and completely superfluous, lost within this bustling storyline and serving more to distract from the plot at hand than enhancing it.
Ultimately, that may be this issue’s greatest sin. It’s still a perfectly serviceable and enjoyable superhero romp, but in trying to both tell a story about Mr. Negative and set-up the next phase of the Zodiac storyline in a scant two issues, Slott may have bitten off just a tad bit more than he can chew.
Batman and Robin Eternal 20
Mark: Well, if anyone was wondering how Dick Grayson was going to leave his spy life behind and return to being Nightwing as part of DC’s Rebirth, we potentially have an answer in Somnus — Spyral’s giant orbiting satellite. Turns out Helena had Dr. Netz and Poppy modify Somnus to allow the world to forget Grayson was Nightwing, with both Dick and Helena holding half the password in their brains.
Last week I complained a little bit that the nature of a weekly comic sometimes means that we lose individual character voices, but Tim Seeley does a much better job this week of giving characters moments to shine. The issue is still incredibly plot heavy as we move into the final stretch of Eternal, but this is one of the better issues at balancing that forward momentum while still honoring the more emotional implications of the action.
Power Man and Iron Fist 1
Spencer: Luke Cage may be married, Danny Rand may have been in multiple relationships, but in the eyes of their fans (and of every other person in the Marvel universe), there’s no one they’re closer to than each other. That idea of partnership and family is the backbone of David Walker and Sanford Greene’s Power Man and Iron Fist 1. It works on several levels, with the simplest (yet most amusing) being the interplay between Luke and Danny.
Luke and Danny are classic best friends: they’re complete opposites who constantly (and hilariously) bicker, yet care about each other more than almost anything in the world. Even Danny’s concern about Luke’s wife liking him is a very relatable, genuine moment that sells the deepness of their friendship — Danny wants to be accepted in all parts of Luke’s life, and Luke’s not too “manly” to reassure him that he is.
These two heroes’ devotion to family also ends up backfiring on them, though. They assume that their former employee, Jennie, feels the same loyalty to them as they do to her, but that’s not true. Instead, Jennie turns their best quality against them, kickstarting the series’ entire plot. It’s an appropriate threat for these characters and a strong opening salvo for this series, although if I’m being honest, the charming characterization won me over long before we even go to this point. I’ll definitely be back next month to see what happens next.
Silver Surfer 2
Patrick: Norrin Radd isn’t a character that’s particularly easy to sympathize with. He has a set of powers, an array of senses, and a wealth of experiences that are simply unimaginable. Morality and mortality couldn’t possibly mean the same thing to him as they do to you or me, or any other person that has ever lived. Dan Slott and Michael Allred’s excellent Silver Surfer series has always side-stepped this issue by making normal human female, Dawn Greenwood, our perspective character. We experience the human drama of accompanying Norrin on all of his Doctor Wholy mind-bending adventures. Issue 2 attempts, and achieves, the impossible: Norrin earns the sympathy and empathy of the readers as he enacts a dance we all know too well — your girlfriend meeting your ex.
It’s not so trite as I’m making it out to be, but I do 100% believe that this issue works so well more because of the awkward girlfriend drama and less because of the Earth-assimilating threat from beyond the stars. Slott even starts real-time story in one of the more relatable situations we’ve seen the Surfer in: bored of hanging out with his girlfriend’s family. He groans at the smell of bacon and eggs for breakfast, but like the motherfucking weirdo alien that he is, he describes it as “seared pig and bird embryos.” His otherness is still totally in tact here, but with the added twist that everyone knows what he’s feeling. He wants to get back into space, doing the stuff he loves doing. I can’t spend more than a weekend with my girlfriend’s parents (or my own parents for that matter) without yearning to get back to my home routine. Ditto Norrin Rad. Then, when he can’t quite figure out how to contact the heroes of this newly reassembled Earth, the Surfer takes Dawn to see his old “friend” Alicia Masters, a.k.a. “another Earthgirl who’s traveled with the Silver Surfer.” It’s a delightfully awkward sequence, punctuated with my favorite visual gag in the whole issue: Dawn’s reflection in Toomie giving her a “what do you want me to say?” shrug.
All of that leads into the biggest ex-girlfriend reveal since… shit, I guess I don’t know when. I may have just met Shalla Bal 20 pages ago, but the sense of history is so complete as to make that final page a true socks-blown-off moment. Juggling the three most important women in his life? Yeah, Norrin Radd might be more relatable than I’ve ever given him credit for.
Drew: Serialized fiction is full of baby delivery stories, but most let the idea of having a baby obscure the personality of the characters. Or maybe they just want to do cheap “mom is in pain/super emotional” jokes. Point is, there are a TON of stories about giving birth, but very few of them leave any room for the mother to actually be herself. Spider-Woman 4 manages to keep Jessica’s personality front-and-center, even as it finds her in a situation that puts all “delivering a baby under unusual circumstances” stories to shame.
Seriously, far from just birthing in a cab or elevator, Jessica is doing it under the gun, racing against a group of terrorists trying to break into the delivery room. This being Jessica, though, there’s no dispair, just a determination to get back on her feet as soon as possible. She does that to remarkable results, but not before pausing for an emotional moment to meet her son.
Artist Javier Rodriguez packs an insane amount of emotion into that page, nailing every single expression, but the most remarkable trick here is the pacing (which, unfortunately, is hard to capture in an excerpt). These two pages are preceded by a sixteen-panel grid, giving the three panels of close-ups and that almost continual montage a decidedly out-of-time quality. Few artists can pull off any of these pages (seriously, that sixteen-panel grid is absurdly legible), let alone all three of them, and the moment absolutely sings because of that pacing.
Actually, Rodriguez is on fire throughout the issue — every layout, expression, and action is clear and powerful — but I want to shine a little love on writer Dennis Hopeless, who definitely deserves praise for not letting Jessica get swallowed by the narrative. Too many pregnant women are turned into irritable props for birth stories, but Jessica’s personality pops on every page. Not only does that lend continuity to the series as a whole — it also keeps the humor and badassery going throughout the issue. Heck, she springs right back from emotionally overwhelmed new mother to badass within that killer montage. This might be the story of a birth, but it’s decidedly the story of Jessica Drew’s birth.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?